Back in New York City now, for good - or for a long while, at least. It's familiar yet strange - four long wartime years have passed since I last lived here, and I'm re-acclimatizing in bite-sized chunks, with antennas cranked up to the max. There's this toughness to be penetrated, and I'm just a shrimp in an ocean teeming with invisible sharks.
That's the old paranoid New Yorker in me talking. It's actually been very pleasant, my friends have been fantastically welcoming, and strangers have been kind. So the tender, friendly Berliner in me comes out, and when this happens in, say, the subway, somehow this alien presence grows to Megawatt proportions and I'm suddenly made to feel like an outsider, or - heaven forbid! - a tourist. Right now, it's just kind of amusing. I just hope it stays that way.
I read that America is now like a country which had been occupied by a hostile foreign power, and the occupying army is now leaving. Coming home after four years of exile, I can feel that almost subterranean shift in the mood of the city. However, I seem to be more exuberant than those who suffered through all of this first hand. Yet they can be drawn into optimism easily enough, and readily talk about how they are feeling new pride in their country.
The right-wing spin has dwindled to a barely audible squeak, it is surely lurking somewhere, licking its wounds, half an eye out for fresh prey. My friends and I look back with a sense of triumph mixed with relief at how, when Michelle Obama said she was proud of her country for the first time, she spoke for all of us inquisitive souls who have been feeling restless about the actions of our government for - well, for our entire life.
It's good to be back.